October 7, 2016
John Oates says Catawba College indirectly played a role in the development of his musical style.
He shared the why of this story with a group of music students from Catawba when he visited the campus on October 7.
When Oates was in seventh grade in Pennsylvania, he had a good friend whose older brother had gone to Catawba University. When the older brother returned to Pennsylvania for his first Christmas vacation, he brought with him “a big stack of folk albums,” Oates explained, noting that in the 1960s there was a revival of folk music. in America, especially in the South where the root music folk began.
“I started hearing this music that I had never heard before,” he said. “I read liner notes on albums that included names of people like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. I started trying to learn this music, playing and stopping albums, and grabbing my guitar to try and recreate it. I literally spent a few months absorbing it. This music and these styles became an intrinsic part of my music and it opened up a world to me that I never knew before.
“Without Catawba, I don’t know where my musical universe would have gone. It’s pretty amazing after all these years that I’m here.
Oates, in town to perform sold out at the Lee Street Theater, is a friend of Bill Armor, Catawba’s assistant to the president on special projects. He is also an advocate and supporter of Catawba’s new Segue 61 certificate program in Nashville. This program, which kicks off on January 7 with 18 talented students, will give musicians, songwriters, producers / engineers and music prospects of all genres an edge to launch their careers.
Oates shared that he worked very hard in the 60s, 70s and 80s with his musical partner Daryl Hall “to create a career and a musical legacy that was unique to us.” The success of Hall and Oates over these three decades allowed him in the late 90s and early 2000s to begin solo work.
It was an opportunity for him to reflect: “What made me want to become a musician – that separated me and separated me from Daryl?” “
His thinking brought him back to folk root music, “the music that inspired me as a kid” and allowed him “to create something uniquely new and different from what I did with Daryl. “.
“When I started my solo career, I kind of went back in time.”
“Don’t overlook the early influences on you as musicians,” he warned the students listening to him. He noted the influence of Doc Watson, “one of the greatest guitarists of all time”, on his music and added that he had the pleasure of playing at Merlefest in North Carolina.
“Doc Watson is a very important part of my musical history. He set the standard and had a rhythmic ease that flowed. I have always hoped to achieve this level of musicality.
Born in New York to parents of Italian descent who were first generation Americans, Oates said “I sang like a baby.” He grew up listening to big band music like Tommy Dorsey before “immediately turning to rock and roll” as he played in the 50s and 60s and “learning to play guitar while playing guitar. rock and roll “. In the ’60s, he began to incorporate folk music into his evolving style, noting, “Somehow all of this music influenced everything I did.
Hall and Oates “started our own brand and started writing our own songs,” Oates said. The two produced their first video on “She’s Gone” in 1973, predating MTV by almost 10 years. And although both were involved in the early days of MTV, he added, “I’ve always seen video presentation as just a supplement to our music.”
Ironically, the script that Oates’ sister created to produce this first video in 1973 will be included in a book he is writing about his life and career. This volume is expected for spring 2017.
Noting how much recording technology has changed over the course of his career, Oates said, “I feel like my life and music career has really followed the history of recording – from 2 tracks to 4-track, 8-track, 16-track which became 24 tracks and then it was digital.In 1984, analog recording had reached its peak and it was the beginning of the digital age.
He said Hall and Oates were fortunate to be at the peak of their careers during this time “because every company that had this equipment wanted to give it to us and wanted us to use it.” Both were able to “take the first digital technology and combine it with advanced analog technology”.
Asked about some of the highlights of his career, he recalls the opening of the Apollo in 1985 with two singers of the Temptations, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. “I was able to recreate a teenage moment on stage with my idols,” he said, calling the experience “one of the greatest moments of my life”.
His induction into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 was another remarkable and memorable milestone. “It was good, much more important to me than being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We would never be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without being in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Asked about the enduring quality of Hall and Oates, Oates shared this anecdote. “In the early 2000s, I started noticing younger people in the audience when we were playing. Little by little it started to change and now it’s mostly 20s to 40s with a handful of old people. And the reason for that, he argues, are the songs.
“Our songs have stood the test of time and resonate with people of all generations. We’re actually more popular now than we were in the ’80s and I don’t take that for granted for a second.
“Thanks to the songs that Daryl and I created, it gave me a creative freedom that very few people are able to achieve. I approach this from a point of view of gratitude and I don’t want to miss it. a second.
While on campus, the Catawba students of the Urb’N Sol group led by Catawba alumnus and musician Dennis Reed ’06 were able to perform for Oates and their fellow students reunited. They performed two original songs – “Colorblind” by Destiny Stone and “She’s All That” by Darryl Bell, before delighting Oates with their moving rendition of “Sara Smile” by Hall and Oates.
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